How to manage innovation for results


Innovation is a topic that is much talked about. Research from the SA Innovation League shows that leaders are no longer debating the need for innovation, boardroom discussions (or Zoom sessions lately) are focusing on how to get it done, where to start and how to be successful at innovation.

The first thing we normally realise when working with large and small companies alike is the difficulty of a common understanding of the concept of innovation. Innovation can mean different things to different people but it is important to get everyone in your organisation on the same page or innovation could become hard to achieve.  

What is innovation?

Innovation has been notoriously hard to define. It is guilty of being a fuzzy area fraught with misunderstanding. What does it actually mean? Innovation is defined by some academics as the “implementation of a new or significantly changed product or process. A product is a good or a service, and a process includes production or delivery, organisation and marketing processes.”[1]

For me in simple terms innovation is made up of three things – it is a new idea that has been implemented in the market and that is creating new value. All three of these elements must be present before we can talk about innovation. A new idea that has not been implemented is still a creative thought only or a fresh idea, implemented but not yet creating value, could classify as an invention, but not much more. 

Innovation is therefore comprised of three components:

New idea + Implementation + value

 Then off course you can get into types, forms and degrees of innovation, business model innovation or open innovation, but that is a discussion for another day.

How does innovation differ from innovation management?

According to the OSLO Manual, the foremost authority on innovation statistical measurement of innovation in the business sector:

Innovation management refers to how organisations manage for innovation and include all “systematic activities to plan, govern and control internal and external resources for innovation…[it] includes how resources for innovation are allocated, the organisation of responsibilities and decision-making among employees, the management of collaboration with external partners, the integration of external inputs into a firm’s innovation activities, and activities to monitor the results of innovation and to support learning from experience.”

It is basically the difference between doing innovation in the organisation and managing innovation as a business discipline to ensure that innovation in your organisation works, that it keeps on delivering results.   In other words - “Innovation” is taking new ideas to market (or implementation) and creating new value for the intended target group – “innovation management” refers to all the things you do in the organisation to repeatedly innovate successfully.

Innovation management is being elevated by the new ISO 56000 series of innovation management standards

And it is coming to a place near you… Managing innovation in your organisation is becoming more and more important for obvious reasons but also because of the new ISO 56000 series of Innovation Management Standards. Innocentrix is a South African representative on this global ISO team.

It presents a series of eight guiding standards (and other initiatives like a handbook) of which five has already been published. Find more information here and check back often as the work is ongoing. Progress is being made as we speak.

The standard is great news as it finally provides a global common understanding of what innovation is, and how to manage it in organisations of all types and sizes.

The ISO work on the Innovation Management Standard guidelines adopts a systems approach. A systems approach to innovation management consider various interrelated elements that influence each other and interacts with the way innovation is managed, this again determines how outcomes will be affected. The ISO 560002 Innovation Management System guiding standard is based on this understanding. The standards on innovation management will ultimately assist with capability development for organisations in innovation. It is designed to support innovation in organisations regardless of origin, type or size and will lead to market, cultural and organisational benefits. Organisations that understand this and know how to implement it in their own environments will have a clear competitive advantage in the future.

According to the ISO 56000 series of innovation management standards, future-focused leaders is one of the eight innovation management principles that provides the foundation of the innovation management system for organisations. Leadership’s understanding, commitment to, and support of innovation are therefore crucial.

The importance of innovation in making growth happen is not a new concept. Successful innovation programmes drive growth and sustainability. The innovative leader understands that organisations can benefit from an “innovation premium”. (An innovation premium, at a very high level, is viewed to be reflective of investor confidence in an organisations ability to be innovative into the future and the value of their future products and services. In other words, investors are valuing companies higher because they trust them to grow and be around in the future).  

As mentioned, the ISO 56002:2019/SANS 56002:2019 standard describes innovation management from a systems perspective as it is believed that the innovation management system guides the organisation to determine its innovation vision, strategy, policy, and objectives and that it establishes the support and processes needed to achieve the intended outcomes”.

From an innovation leadership perspective, it addresses the imperatives of Leadership and Commitment as well as Innovation Policy and provides concrete guidelines on how to enable innovation in the organisation.

Leadership and Commitment

Leadership and commitment is an important imperative concerning innovation capability building. It focuses on value realisation by giving attention to things like, amongst others:

  • accountability, ensuring that the organisation’s vision and strategy for innovation are established, as well as addressing culture and supporting activities and the necessary structures that will support it.

Innovation Policy

Establishing innovation policy is a clear leadership responsibility and the guidance provided by ISO 56002:2019/SANS 56002:2019 in this regard states that top management needs to (1) establish, (2) implement and (3) maintain innovation policy, ensuring that (amongst other things):

  • innovation activities are committed, that activities are appropriate and aligned, that a relevant innovation framework is considering the eight innovation management principles mentioned in the guidance document and that the innovation management system is continually reviewed and improved upon.

Being an innovative leader is one thing, planning adequately to ensure that innovation is successful in your organisation is an important responsibility that requires skill, dedication and commitment but most of all, it requires consistent, innovative leadership.


The South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) are the custodians of the ISO 56000 series of Innovation Management Standards in South Africa. Please contact us here should you need any more information or assistance to integrate this thinking into your organisation.

Innocentrix helps their clients to Create, Engage and Deliver on innovation for organisations of all sizes.

Get in touch here if you need more information or if you are interested in innovation strategic or training services, to become part of our community to stay abreast of the latest trends in innovation or to attend a future innovation workshop or webinar.



[1] Gault, F. (2018). Defining and measuring innovation in all sectors of the economy. Research Policy, 47(3), 617–622.


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